Despite some heavy legs, the Washington Spirit won their second game in under a week, defeating OL Reign 1-0 in Tacoma. A Megan Rapinoe own goal early in the second half was the game’s only goal, as the Spirit leaned on some defensive solidity and a fortunate bounce in front of goal to climb further up the table.
Despite the grind of trips to Louisville, Houston, and Tacoma in a nine-day span, Richie Burke only opted for rotation in one spot, with Kumi Yokoyama returning to the starting lineup to replace Trinity Rodman up front. The other alteration was enforced, as Andi Sullivan’s suspension meant a start for Natalie Jacobs in the midfield.
The Reign, featuring Rose Lavelle for the first time since her return to the league, brought plenty of energy early, pressing Washington and disrupting their attempts to build from the back. However, the Spirit ended up turning their first lengthy attacking move into the game’s first big chance. Kelley O’Hara looped a pass to Ashley Hatch, who glanced it on for Ashley Sanchez, but the young attacker was denied by an excellent save from Karen Bardsley in the 15th minute.
The Reign responded quickly, with Lavelle setting up Tziarra King for a goal that was called back due to King being a step offside, but both sides settled into mid-blocks and looked to patiently break one another down from there. Aubrey Bledsoe faced only one serious test during the entire half: a 37th minute shot from Megan Rapinoe, who cut in from the left to unleash a knuckling shot from around 25 yards out that Bledsoe tipped away.
The Spirit brought Trinity Rodman on at halftime to spruce up their attack, but took the lead via a bizarre set piece goal in the 52nd minute. Julia Roddar’s back post service fooled Bardsley off her line, but the goalkeeper missed the ball entirely. That in turn unsighted Rapinoe, who had no time to dodge the ball, which hit her and rebounded into the empty net.
Washington nearly made it 2-0 five minutes later, with Rodman and Sanchez pressuring the Reign after a poor backpass. Bardsley was caught out of goal again, but Hatch’s shot under pressure from Amber Brooks floated just barely over the bar.
Rodman did end up playing a part in the game’s next notable chance, cutting the ball back in the 72nd minute for Sanchez. Sanchez couldn’t find a window to shoot from deep in the Reign box, but she laid the ball back to substitute Dorian Bailey, who stung a 17-yard shot that beat Bardsley only to thump off of the bottom of the crossbar and bounce away.
Farid Benstiti used two different double substitutions to try and inject some life into his side as the Spirit were, if anything, growing into the game rather than showing fatigue. Washington were again denied a second goal in the 83rd minute after a splendid ball into the box from Kelley O’Hara picked out a sprinting Sanchez, only for Bardsley to lunge left and make a top-drawer save.
Bardsley tried to launch a counter immediately, but suffered an apparent hamstring injury in punting the ball, forcing the Reign to use their last sub to bring goalkeeper Ella Dederick in for her NWSL debut.
Amid all that, the Spirit continued to calmly manage the game’s tempo, winning set pieces and keeping the game bogged down in OL Reign’s half rather than seeing much traffic in front of Bledsoe’s goal.
That professional road performance has given the Spirit their second win in a row, moving them up to 2nd place in the NWSL standings on 7 points. Washington will return home next weekend, for real this time, as they host the Orlando Pride on Sunday, June 6 at 2:00pm at Audi Field.
NWSL Regular Season - Game 4
OL Reign 0
Washington Spirit 1 (Rapinoe 52og)
Reign (433): Karen Bardsley (Ella Dederick 86); Madison Hammond, Amber Brooks, Kristen McNabb, Lauren Barnes (C); Shirley Cruz (Angelina 75), Rose Lavelle (Dani Weatherholt 64), Jess Fishlock; Sofia Huerta, Tziarra King (Leah Pruitt 64), Megan Rapinoe (Bethany Balcer 75)
Spirit (4231): Aubrey Bledsoe; Tori Huster, Emily Sonnett, Sam Staab, Kelley O’Hara; Natalie Jacobs, Julia Roddar (Dorian Bailey 58); Kumi Yokoyama (Trinity Rodman 46), Ashley Sanchez, Tara McKeown; Ashley Hatch (Anna Heilferty 68)
Reign - Brooks 88
Spirit - Bailey 65